Mental health professionals will be sent out to respond to some 911 calls in Chicago instead of cops, following defund the police protests and a number of police killings of mentally-unwell people.
The city is launching a two-part 'alternative response' pilot program this fall that takes a more public health approach to responding to 911 calls for mental health emergencies.
The initiatives aim to both ensure people suffering a mental health crisis get the help they need rather than face criminalization and free police up for tackling crime, amid a mass exodus of cops from the force.
A total of 363 officers retired from the Chicago Police Department between January and June this year, with another 56 on track to quit in July, according to figures from the police pension board.
If the trend continues, the mass departure will even dwarf the 560 retirements last year, when swathes of officers quit amid protests over the police murder of George Floyd and demands to defund the police.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
With only around 13,000 cops remaining, Fox News reported that Chicago's 117,000 gang members now outnumber officers by roughly 10 to one, at a time when the Windy City is facing a surge in violent crime.
More than 100 people were shot and at least 17 killed over July 4 weekend alone, while shootings have spiked 11 percent so far in 2021 compared to the same period last year.
Mental health professionals will be sent out to respond to some 911 calls in Chicago instead of cops, following defund the police protests and a number of police killings of mentally-unwell people. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Protesters and Chicago Police clash during protests last summer over George Floyd's murder. Swathes of officers have retired from the force following the protests which called for the defunding of the police
Chicago's new 'alternative response' programs will involve dispatching a team that includes a mental health professional and a paramedic to mental health-related calls, reported Chicago Sun-Times.
One program will involve sending a paramedic and a mental health clinician for 'behavioral health calls.'
A second program will involve sending a paramedic with a 'recovery specialist' for calls relating to substance abuse, the outlet reported.
It is not fully clear how 911 dispatchers will determine which calls should be responded to by police officers or by mental health professionals.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
However, the city said mental health professionals will be stationed inside 911 call centers to help monitor situations and, from October, will be responding to some 911 calls by phone.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office and the Chicago Police Department for more information.
The landmark program marks the first time 911 calls will not be responded to by police officers in the Windy City.
Ahead of the launch, the city is rolling out two dedicated ambulance teams in August who can respond to calls in 13 neighborhoods that deal with especially high rates of mental health emergencies.
The two teams each include a police officer trained in crisis intervention, a paramedic and a mental health clinician.
Laquan McDonald (left), a 17-year-old black teen who had learning disabilities and complex mental health diagnoses, was shot and killed by Chicago police in 2014. Quintonio LeGrier (right) was shot and killed by cops during a mental health episode in 2015
One team will be dedicated to calls in the North Side and the other in the South Side of the city, serving Uptown, North Center, Lakeview, Humboldt Park, West and East Garﬁeld Park, West Englewood, West Elsdon, Chicago Lawn, West Lawn, Gage Park, Auburn Gresham and Chatham neighborhoods.
Alex Heaton, Lightfoot's policy advisor for public safety, told the Sun-Times the city hopes the 'public health approach' to mental health calls will ensure residents get the help they need.
'This is a brand new workforce for the city, and it's an exciting opportunity to use a public health approach for people likely to come in contact with the first responder system,' he said.
'Are we reducing calls from an individual? Is it cost-effective? And are we able to connect folks with places that can address their medical concerns?
'Are we able to engage these organizations to make 911 not be the go-to place?'
By having professionals trained in dealing with mental health crises respond to the calls, mental health patients can be given a pathway of support